10 reasons to visit Harar in Ethiopia

Ethiopia still has to be the most underrated country in the world in which to travel. Harar is an ancient city in eastern Ethiopia that is immensely rich in culture and traditions. Harar (sometimes spelt Harar or Harer) has a population of about 75,000 people. Visit the city of Harar and it won’t be hard to understand why Arthur Rimbaud, the famous French poet, decided to make Harar his home until his death. Here are 10 reasons why you should consider making it your next travel destination.

1. There are no security risks

Yes, that’s right. There are no security risks in Harar, Ethiopia. It is safe to walk around the city even at late hours after dark. The crime rates are low and the people are friendly. No one will rob you as Harar is a peaceful place, considering it is considered one of the holiest places in Islam.

2. A pleasant temperature

Harar is one of the very few places where the temperature is just right. The average temperate in Harar is close to 27 degree Celsius, you can easily walk around in the sun without feeling too hot and sit around indoors or in the shade without feeling too cold, especially at night. This makes it ideal for a much needed long vacation.

3. The architecture

The buildings and houses in the Jegol gimb, as well as the ancient cobblestone roads in the city, will give you the feeling that you are in one of Indiana Jones’ movies. The buildings give off an ancient vibe and a feeling of adventure to anyone who visits. Not to mention the beautiful architectural design of that time period when the city was constructed.

4. You can feed hyenas with your own hands

Soon after nightfall, you will find hyena’s wandering around in the main streets of the city. This animal is widely known to be shy and keeps a distance from humans. The hyenas in Harar make an exception and give the impression that they are domesticated like cats or dogs and other pets alike. There is one particular spot in Harar where you can experience feeding hyenas from your own hands. The tradition started developing soon after a night in the 1960s and now has become a nightly feeding show for the benefit of tourists. Costs are 50 Birr to the hyena man, 50 Birr extra if you have a camera. You can go without a guide, or get a guide to take you there – usually another 50 Birr. I have written about my time feeding hyenas.

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5. Notable Residents throughout history

Harar has been the home of many notable personalities through the course of history. Some of the big names include :

  • ‘Abd Allah II ibn ‘Ali ‘Abd ash-Shakur, Last Emir of Harar
  • Abadir Umar Ar-Rida, Muslim Cleric
  • Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, Leader of the Adal Sultanate
  • Mahfuz, Imam and General of the Adal Sultanate
  • Bati del Wambara, Wife of Imam Ahmed
  • Nur ibn Mujahid, Emir of Harar
  • Abdullah al-Harari, Leader of Ahbash Movement
  • Malik Ambar, Leader of Ahmadnagar Sultanate
  • Ali ibn Da`ud, Founder of Emirate of Harar
  • Haboba, First Emir of Harar

Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet, settled as a merchant in Harar between 1880 and 1891

6. The Coffee

A specific breed of coffee is famous in Harar. It is one of the oldest coffee beans still produced and is known for its distinctive fruity, wine flavour. Its shells are used in a tea called hasher-qahwa. The bean is medium in size having a unique greenish-yellowish colour. It has medium acidity and full body and a distinctive mocha flavour The processing is done by hand and the labourers are extremely knowledgeable of how each bean is categorized. Harar is a dry processed coffee bean with sorting and processing done almost entirely by hand.

7. Best time to visit

The best time of the year to visit Harar is anytime. It isn’t like it snows in the winter so you have to go in winter to see the snow. The climate in Harar is fairly consistent. You can visit Harar in January or in June and it’ll feel pleasant none the less. You can go right now and not regret it.

8. The mosques

Harar is also the home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the world. The city has a whopping 110 number of mosques, each more beautiful than the next. Every mosque is constructed with thought and attention, giving praise to all that is divine. One of the most notable mosque, a mosque that stands out from the rest is the Grand Jami Mosque with its tall white minarets.

harar mosques

9. The food

Harar and Ethiopia have a traditional cuisine which is unique only to her. The food is usually rich in flavour, combining different spices both which are produced and imported. The food gives off an aroma that can be smelled throughout the bazaars. Eating out is a sort of tradition in Harar, people don’t like cooking at home and prefer to go to their favourite eating place to have a taste of it the vast meals of injera bread with spicy sauces which cost only pennies.

10. The Festivals

In Harar, you can attend a festival during just about any time of the year. They offer lots of colour and insight into Ethiopian culture and tradition. Cultural affairs and sporting events abound throughout the year. Dance and musical performances are a common theme of traditional events, along with art and religion. The Timkat Feast is a three-day festival held annually on January 19 that celebrates the baptism of Christ on the Jordan River. Beautifully decorated tabots (tablets onto which the Ten Commandments are inscribed) that represent the Ark of the Covenant are paraded around the capital city. The Ethiopian Film and Music Festivals – featuring  outdoor film screens along with a series of musical events and concerts – are held in May along with a series of musical events and concerts that celebrate the wide variety of genres and styles.

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